Sep 5, 2010

questions answered: factory farming.

hey guys. thank you so much for your honesty on my factory farming post! i'm always blown away by how supportive, thoughtful, and totally open you guys are. you guys rock!

you guys asked some awesome questions i really couldn't wait to answer, so here we go!

1. jess asks: are organic dairy cows treated better than traditional, and which to buy - organic dairy or local dairy?

erm... well, this is a tricky one. most organic dairy companies are just a branch of the parent factory farm brand (like how Dannon owns Stonyfield Farms). because of this, i  am inclined to say no, they aren't treated better. for the majority of what's on your grocers shelves, organic doesn't mean humane - it means no added hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs, and that's it (assume all non-organic dairy does have added r-bst - bovine growth hormone).

the reason why i'm inclined to say local dairy is better is because, like mishe said, it's almost the only way you can actually know how your food is produced. if you know your farmer, you're much more likely to get an accurate picture of what's going on behind their closed doors.

i do, however, still have issues with dairy: unless your dairy comes from a tiny, family-run farm with a diverse range of animals, dairy comes from a dairy farm (i'm intelligent, yes?). dairy farms only have dairy cows, and the sole purpose of these cows is to make milk. you know how they produce milk all year round? they are continuously impregnated. as you can imagine, this is incredibly hard on their bodies, and not natural at all.

also, please know that the dairy industry is subsidized by the government. not to preach anarchy or anything, but it's a monopoly that is rapidly wiping out our family farms - the government now owns 86% of the dairy industry. for every TV ad you see promoting dairy, the government makes millions. so when they promote eating 3 servings a day for strong bones, should you believe them? they also are the source of funding for studies on the health of milk, so is it really shocking to discover that milk is "healthy?" they paid millions for the scientists to "discover" that!

it's worth noting that other countries that do not consume dairy on a regular basis do not have a higher risk of osteoporosis, and usually have less cancer and heart disease. i'm sure there are many reasons for this, but it seems dairy isn't the determining factor on bone health after all. and just a final gross-out for ya? if it's not bad enough that 50% of milk-producing cows have mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands), the USDA allows a percentage of PUSS, FECAL MATTER, and BLOOD in even organic milk! blegghhh!!!

2. daniel asks: what's a good alternative to yogurt?

two thoughts on this: one is check out your local health food store for coconut milk yogurt. more nutritious than dairy and de-lic-ious! there's also soy yogurt, but i'm not a huge fan of processed soy products. another good substitute is to make a smoothie, or fruit ice cream.

my second thought is a little hardcore, but hear me out. when i gave up meat, i searched a while for a "substitute." i didn't want to eat fake meat because it weirds me out, but i couldn't figure out what to eat instead. it took me a few weeks to realize it wasn't about replacing what i cut out, but exploring a whole new world of foods i hadn't ever tried yet!

how easy something is to live without is really all in your attitude - true in all areas of life. if you feel deprived and focus on what you're losing, of course you'll be unhappy! but there's two sides to this, and don't forget what you're gaining. nothing tastes good enough to negate the health benefits, impact on the environmont, and enormous impact on animals that giving up dairy brings, and coming from the girl who used to eat a family-sized container of greek yogurt in two days, i'm proof anyone can do this!

we live with our little routine of foods we're comfortable eating since birth, but the reality is there are thousands of options out there! while i understand that yogurt is ridiculously good, may i suggest opening your mind to countless undiscovered, delicious snacks instead? it might just change your life! most of us eat yogurt for that creamy texture, so seek it out in other natural foods, like avocados, peaches, and oatmeal.

and if you are blessed by the vita-mix gods, you can really make whatever you want! try some protein ice cream (with no added gums, please!) or a dairy-free ice cream recipe, and send me your thoughts/suggestions! i like ice cream, too!

3. chuck said: i love meat, but what can we do to improve the meat industry?

honestly, i'm not too optimistic here. maybe i'm just a trippy-dippy-hippie, but in my experience, government involvement + huge profit margin = slow to change. factory farms make tons of profit, so i doubt we'll see a quick shift away from one of the US' biggest growing money-makers.

a little background on modern farming: farms used to be a diverse, sustainable culture. they needed all different kinds of plants and animals together to keep the land and livestock healthy. at some point around the 1930's, farmers started to realize they could make more money by creating a monofarm - a business on raising one type of product. it's been so successful in our generation, it's almost impossible to find a farm today that isn't a monofarm.

while it certainly makes more money, our generation is forced to live with the consequences: soil completely stripped of nutritients (which grows almost vitamin-less food), antibiotic-resistant bacteria (did you wonder where swine flu came from...?), and holes in the ozone layer (which most are conveniently located over the largest farms, such as smithfield, butterball, and purdue). ever heard of the term "over-fed but under-nourished?" you can thank factory farms for that.

my advice on how to improve farm conditions? use your dollars! politicians might not care about what you personally think, but companies listen to what you buy. if we keep buying their products, they'll keep creating new ways to provide for the demand. next time you're in the store, ask yourself what statement are you making to big businesses by the contents in your cart - who gets your money?

no, i'm not blissfully ignorant, but it's not hard to see that if no one bought mcdonalds, they would go out of business. and yes, your groceries do have an effect on our economy! no one person can change the world, but we can change our own lives for our own benefit. and besides, just because we can't completely change something doesn't mean we have to continue supporting it. i don't want to waste my life thinking "instead of being scared, what if i had only ________?" 

so we must read our labels, do our research, and ask ourselves honestly - do we really need animal products all day long? not until very recently did humans base their diet on it, and there's just no way companies can safely, healhfully, and cleanly produce enough to keep up with our appetites.

what's more important to us - having chicken, yogurt, and tacos as much as we want, or something other than our cravings? it's a convicting question i ignored, side-stepped, and struggled with for many years.

like mishe brought up, if we can't find an affordable, healthy, humanely-produced product, instead of just complaining and buying crap anyways, how about we just not buy it!

a few final thoughts?

daniel made a great point that i totally am in love with - it's not about meat-eaters vs. vegans, but health and changing what's happening on our farms, and we need everyone's help!

my intentions are always to be informative, in as ashley said, "a non-judgment, non-push-it-down-my-throat kind of way." please know i love you all dearly and am so proud of you when you treat your bodies right! you guys have such diverse, awe-inspiring stories.

it might shock you to know i don't have anything against eating animals - contrary to most vegans, i believe God created us to eat meat. but what i cannot stand is when we exploit others for our benefit. treating animals no better than garbage is not only cruel, but also completely wasteful of a wonderful resource we have. we are destroying our planet and mutilating one of our best sources of sustenance, and for what? money? wealth? power? that's not justifiable in my book, and i don't want anything to do with such corruption and absolute arrogance.

and please please please, if you have any more questions, i'd love to pursue them with you! let's get our minds and hearts opened, and start talking about the things we've always wanted to ask. this is a place that's safe to ramble, think out loud, or express frustrations!

anything else i missed?


  1. "it might shock you to know i don't have anything against eating animals - contrary to most vegans, i believe God created us to eat meat" This is something that I question in my own life. I'm a Christian, and though I'm not deeply involved in my religion, I do know that God told Noah that all of the creatures on this earth can be used for his consumption, and there's a lot of debate on whether or not Jesus was a vegetarian / pescatarian, etc. I find myself asking if that's right and acceptable to eat the animal, ONLY ASSUMING that it was treated with proper respect and proper thanks and respect is given when feasting upon that animal.

    I also could cut out all animals from my diet but I still eat sardines from time to time. I looked up the ethics behind eating fish and a lot of it seems to fall back to the fact that people don't view fish as feeling anything and dying quickly. I guess that in fact, they do, seeing as their mouthes are sensitive and when a hook is imbedded into it that's obviously going to hurt. Also, their inner organs explode upon being drawn out of the water. I don't see that as humane...

    I don't know. It's a hard debate, many sided, and difficult to make a decision. It all ultimately comes down to what works best for the individual - no one can make this decision for me (though unbiased guidance would be nice! haha). I am certain that it should begin with the proper treatment of these creatures and if there was a way to get my yogurt from a local, humane source - like my eggs - I would do so in a heartbeat.

    Ok, done rambling for now. :)

  2. This is an excellent post. I have been vegan for 2 years now and could never go back to eating animal products, but I can respect the fact that a vegan lifestyle is not for everyone. I will never be able to respect the horrible things that happen on factory farms though. You are right, it needs to change! I loved the point you made about focusing on what we are "gaining" by giving up animal products, not "losing." When I first went vegan I thought it would be hard to give up things like dairy and eggs, but once I did it I felt so good about my decision that I didn't even care anymore.

  3. wow, amazing job rebekah! i wish i had your writing skills!

    i was 100% vegan when i created my animal-friendly eating blog, but now i stray just a tiny bit when i am with family. i do not purchase or cook with animal ingredients in my home, but i find "treating" myself to my mother's food every so often is helping me to stay on the vegan path.

    too many times i hear people say, "i used to be veg..." or "i wish i were veg but i just can't give up cheese..." it's not about wearing a label or being anything but aware of where our food comes and using that info to make conscious choices. after all, everything is a choice.

    i encourage everyone to just try and explore all the plant-based options out there! we are so fortunate to live in such a veg-friendly time...and if we all even just ate half the amount of animal products we once consumed, think of all the animals we would save!

  4. everytime i read your posts, I become closer and closer to becoming vegan. It's actually something that's been my mind a lot lately, and ironically - I kept coming back to "can my life go on without greek yogurt?!" haha. Sad, but true. But you're so right on the not focusing on what we can't have thing. When I first started weaning myself from meat, I had way more soy-free meat subs (quorn is pretty good if I may say) but now I rarely have them. I'll have beans as a protein any day, instead! So I'm sure it'd be the same way for yogurt. I'd probably not go vegan mainly because I don't really like labels - but I have been eating less and less dairy, eggs, etc. lately. So for now, I'm okay with that - as long as I'm being aware of WHERE my food comes from.
    And, thank you for answering my question. After reading your last post, I had feared that was the answer :( So sad, really. And I can't wait to keep reading!

  5. Another very insightful and informative post. I love: "how easy something is to live without is really all in your attitude" This is most definitely true and I'm learning this moment by moment this week, as my life is changing and I'm having to learn to live without. While it wasn't your direct intent, this message resonated with me!


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